New England Patriots: Playoff Present, Playoff Future?

By Brandon Medeiros
Tom Brady New England Patriots
Mark L. Baer-USA Today Sports

After a dismal defeat to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game by a final score of 26-16, the New England Patriots have succumbed for a second year in the Championship contest.

Let’s recap. For New England, 2013 was also a season plagued by nagging injuries to top offensive stars like Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, arguably two of the most important pieces in the championship puzzle. Unfortunately, for the majority of the year, Tom Brady had to work with an untested core of rookie receivers in the form of Aaron Dobson, Michael Hoomanawanui and undrafted rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins with veteran Julian Edelman being one of the only bright sides to New England’s offense. With an inconsistent offensive line adding to the cause, many predicted that the Patriots weren’t going to get very far into the postseason, if they were to make it in at all.

As in past seasons, the Patriots were able to defy the odds and began to write their own Cinderella story, easily winning their division and collecting a first round bye in the playoffs. Having to face a resurgent Indianapolis Colts team was no easy task, and many weren’t entirely sure whether New England was up for the challenge.

The red-hot Colts were coming off their unbelievable 45-44 come from behind victory against the Kansas City Chiefs. Nonetheless, the Patriots struck first offensively as cornerback Alfonzo Dennard intercepted quarterback Andrew Luck‘s pass and on New England’s first offensive possession, running back LeGarrette Blount scored a two-yard touchdown giving the Patriots the early lead. One of the main impact performers for New England’s offense was none other than Blount. He finished the night with 169 rushing yards and four touchdowns setting a new Patriots playoff mark for the most rushing yards in a single game. It’s apparent that the Patriots have restructured a strong rushing attack consisting of Blount, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

Now we jump ahead to Mile High where the Denver Broncos play, and the marijuana is legal (pun intended).

The Broncos, to much of the dismay of the Patriots, also had a first-round bye and were capable of dismantling Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers the following week.

Here is a fun fact for you: Before this much anticipated AFC Championship game, Tom Brady was 10-4 in his career against Manning which also includes him being 1-1 in the AFC Championship. Also, home-field advantage has been an essential part in determining the victor in the championship game. In the two times that Brady and Manning had ever met in the AFC Championship, whichever team had home-field advantage would go on to win the Super Bowl that year.

Remember, being superstitious is only weird if it doesn’t work and boy, was it working in Manning’s favor. The Broncos were running roughshod throughout the Patriots’ defense the entire night, dismantling them with every drive. Manning was able to pick apart the Pats’ secondary, for which you can give much of the credit to Wes Welker for his blatant and deliberate hit on star cornerback Aqib Talib. You may be asking yourself this question: Why would the Broncos have an injury prone, 5-foot-9, 185-pound Welker do their dirty work when they have a 6-foot-5, 247-pound Julius Thomas in their arsenal? That one is for sure a head scratcher, but there’s no denying the fact that Talib’s absence left a vulnerable and inexperienced secondary to give their best attempts at stopping Manning.

The fact of the matter is this: Tom Terrific may have brought the New England Patriots three Super Bowl Championships, and is due the majority of the credit for building a dynasty in New England, but he is 37 years old. With the NFL beginning to evolve around a more mobile and agile quarterback, the inevitable is that Brady has ultimately out done his stay in the league. If the Pats want to make one last hurrah with their “franchise quarterback” then they must supply him with the proper weapons going forth. If that doesn’t happen, then mark my words, the New England Patriots will never win another Super Bowl under Tom Brady. The decade of dominance was great, but it may be time for a facelift to this aging roster.

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